Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted – Source: Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2010

[Note: To read Dr. Steinemann’s summary of this article and an informative FAQ (e.g., Are ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ fragranced products any different?), and to link to a PDF of the full article which is still in press, go to]

Fragranced consumer products are pervasive in society. Relatively little is known about the composition of these products, due to lack of prior study, complexity of formulations, and limitations and protections on ingredient disclosure in the U.S.

We investigated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 25 common fragranced consumer products – laundry products, personal care products, cleaning supplies, and air fresheners – using headspace analysis with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS).

Our analysis found 133 different VOCs emitted from the 25 products, with an average of 17 VOCs per product. Of these 133 VOCs, 24 are classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws, and each product emitted at least one of these compounds.

For “green” products, emissions of these compounds were not significantly different from the other products.

Of all VOCs identified across the products, only 1 was listed on any product label, and only 2 were listed on any material safety data sheet (MSDS).

While virtually none of the chemicals identified were listed, this nonetheless accords with U.S. regulations, which do not require disclosure of all ingredients in a consumer product, or of any ingredients in a mixture called “fragrance.”

Because the analysis focused on compounds emitted and listed, rather than exposures and effects, it makes no claims regarding possible risks from product use. Results of this study contribute to understanding emissions from common products, and their links with labeling and legislation.

Source: Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2010. DOI:10.1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002, by Steinemann AC, MacGregor IC, Gordon SM, Gallagher LG, Davis AL, Ribeiro DS, Wallace LA. University of Washington, Seattle; Battelle Memorial Institutue, US Environmental Protection Agency, USA. [Email:]

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